Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Maha Shivaratri - The Auspicious Night

 Maha Shivaratri:
Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated in the month of Maagha Masam or Phalguna masam on the 13th night or 14th day. Devotees offer prayers to Lord Shiva in temples. The most importance of this day are offering of Bilva leaves and performing abhishekam to the Lord Shiva, fasting and doing Jagarana (all through night long).

Cultural Importance:
As per Hindu mythology the Lord Shiva’s favorite day is Maha Shivaratri. Chanting OmNamaShivaya on this with perfect devotion and concentration will get free from all sins and liberated from the wheel of births and deaths.
  • Many believe that this day is auspicious because Lord Shiva and Parvathi are married. 
  • Some Believe that this auspicious night, Lord Shiva performed the Tandava (Dance) that led to the creation, protection and destroy of the universe.  
  • Another story is that during the Churning of the Ocean (Samudra Manthan) by the Gods and Demons, a toxic poison which could affect the entire creation is formed. Lord Vishnu advised the gods to approach Lord Shiva and pray to protect their lives by consuming the poison. Then Lord Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat has become blue (also known as NeelaKanta). The gods kept Lord Shiva awake the whole night on the advice of Ashwini Kumaras as a part of therapy, by performing dances and playing music. So from that time on the Shivaratri day and night, devotees fast and chant and meditate Lord Shiva.                                        
Maha Shivaratri Procedure:
  • Devotees have to get up early morning clean the house and perform bath at sunrise. Wear fresh new clothes after the bath.
  • Visit a nearby Shiva temple and circumambulate the linga, three or seven times.
  •  Perform Special abishekam and offer bilva Leaves and chant the panchakshara mantra to the Shiva linga.
  • At home perform puja with bilwa leaves, light a ghee lamp and incense to purify the negative energies. Prepare naivedhyam and offer to Lord Shiva.
  • Keep Fasting and do jagaram the whole night by chanting and meditating.

Abishekam Significance:
Maha Shivaratri Puja must incorporate with six items as per the Shiva Purana:
Milk - purity,piousness
Yogurt - prosperity,progeny
Honey - speech witrh sweetness
Ghee - victory
Sugar – happiness

Interesting Facts:
  • Married Women observe fast and offer prayers both to Lord Shiva and Parvati to shower their grace with a peaceful and blissful married life.
  • Unmarried women observe fast and offer prayers to Lord Shiva to bless them a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband.

 Scientific Reasons:
  • Maha shivaratri is celebrated when winter pass across spring. The humans have to adjust the body physiology as they are easily influenced to lung and respiratory infections.
  • Abhishekam (water has noncrystalline substance consisting of large molecules) is done on the Shiva lingam to provide a powerful medicine. The Shiva lingam is made up of special granite with precious metals. The lingam produces cosmic vibrations because of the architecture.
  • The bilva leaves are the preventive medicine for respiratory diseases and cardiac problems. By inhaling the smell we are connected to aroma therapy.
  • The position of moon at an angle with the earth has intense influence on the organs like brain, kidney, digestive tracts etc. so fasting is prescribed on Maha Shivaratri to keep the organs impaired and function smoothly.
  • The temples are built in a special architecture as per agama Shastra to accumulate the cosmic energy and Geo-magnetic energy. This energy will be overindulging to the devotees in the temple.
  • Staying wake up on the whole night and reciting Powerful Vedic mantras will help in charging yourself with the infrared energies which acts as a medicine for the seasonal changes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ratha Saptami - Surya Jayanthi

Ratha Saptami:
This festival is dedicated to Surya, the Sun God. The festival comes on the seventh day i.e. Saptami of Magha Masam (January - February). Sun symmetrical events falls during Pushya, Magha Masam & Dhanurmasam, starting from Vaikunta Ekadasi and ending with Ratha Sapthami. Worshipping Sun God during this period is considered to be very sacred. People believe that the sun god will bless with success for all their endeavors.
Cultural Beliefs:
  • This festival is celebrated as birthday of sun god (Surya Jayanthi) is born to the couple Kashyapa (sage) and Aditi.
  • The King Yashovarma has no children. So he performed prayer to Sun god and was blessed with a son. His son was very ill. A saint visited the king and advised the king to perform the Ratha Saptami pooja to destroy his past sins. The King’s son performed the pooja and his health was cured rule to his kingdom.
  • It is believed that sage Bhisma breathed his last breath a day after the Ratha saptami day.
  • As per mythology Lord Sri Rama worshipped sun god before going to battle with Ravana. King Satragit worshipped the sun god for the gem Samanthakamani (cause of prosperity) which is later given to Lord Krishna and Satyabhama marriage.
  • Surya Namaskaram even once a year on the Ratha sapthami day will give you good health for the whole year. 
 Ratha Saptami Pooja Procedure:
  • Fast on saptami night and take bath early in the morning at the time of sunrise especially at the sacred rivers facing towards east. People believe that they will get rid of sins committed from their previous seven births, health problems can be cured. 
  • Take bath using Arka(ray of light)/Yekka (Jilledu-plant related to sun god) Leaves by keeping One leaf is kept on the head with few rice grains over it, 2 leaves on the shoulders, 2 on knees and 2 on foot while having bath. The bath is very sacred.
 Chant the below mantra while taking bath:
  • If not possible at the river place a block of wood in the bathroom and seat yourself facing east. Place the seven Arka leaves (seven births) on your head and have bath with mind fixed on God.
  • Water has to be held in the palms and offer to the sun god to receive mercy. After bath perform Soorya Namaskar and read Sri Agasthiar's Aditya Hrudayam.
  • God Vishnu in the form of sun god is worshipped on this day. Recite and perform Japa such as Surya Sahasramnamam, Aditya hridayam, Suryashtakam, Gayathri, surya gayatri and offer puja to sun god.
  • Women have to draw rangoli (pattern of surya or riding a chariot-Ratham) at the entrance of their houses to welcome the pleasant rays of sun.
  • Fasting can be done to attain knowledge.
  • People do Charity to yield good benefits. According to the Magha Masa rules Thila danam, Salagrama Dana, donating clothes, Blankets, Umbrella, Amla to the people in need are very sacred 
  • The food grain for Sun god is wheat so prepare payasam/Kheer, “Sweet Pongal (chakra pongali)” (sweet prepared with broken rice and Jaggery) and offer as naivedyam to Sun God.
  • In The festival Ratha Saptami Ratha means chariot and sapthami is the thiti.Saptami is the thithi allotted to sun god at the time of constellations divisions.
  • The chariot of the Sun God is diverted towards the north by his charioteer Aruna. The Sun God rides on his chariot drawn by seven horses and move towards the north east direction bringing the entry of the spring season. The Sun’s chariot has only one wheel, representing the Kalachakra and the seven horses represent seven colors of light (VIBGYOR). The seven horses represent seven days in the week starting from Sunday the day dedicated to Sun God. The entire kala-chakra (wheel of time) is established on the wheel of the sun-god's chariot (Samvatsara). Sun is the lord of Leo in the Zodiac. He stays one month in each Raasi and takes 365 days or 12 months to complete a round of 12 Rasis.
Important Facts:
  • Hindus consider sun as an important god. Sun worship is needed for the physical and mental well-being of an individual.
  • Many Mandatory daily routines like surya namaskara, Sandhya vandana, and Gayathri japa are incorporated in the Nitya Vidhis.
  • Ratha saptami is powerful like some people offer tarpanam to ancestors.
  • Grand Celebrations are performed in the temples located at Konark (Orissa), Arasavelli (Srikakulam dt.Andhra Pradesh), tirumala and srirangam.One day Brahmotsavam is celebrated at tirumala.
  • The thoughts that arise in the human mind are like the horses that pull the mind in different directions. The mind is to make progress towards the spirituality; the horses should pulled in the right direction. Change in the mind and putting it on the path to God is the philosophy.
 Scientific Reasons:
  • As per the science all the planets revolve around the sun. When the earth rotates and revolves around sun day and night comes. Our lives start with sunlight. The sun is very far from earth and the sunlight takes 8.3 minutes to reach the earth. The ultra violet rays from the sun have antiseptic properties, kills germs and bacteria (unseen to x-rays and scanners). Plants prepare food. Sunlight is the rich source of Vitamin-D. 
  • When the sun is in Capricorn constellation, it moves northward. It not only turns around, but ensures some important events to happen during the six months period of the movement. The six months will be Month of Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer. The power of Sun rays can be physically and practically seen.
  •  Arka Leaves has many medicinal benefits. It is used to cure skin diseases, digestion problem, join paints, abdominal pain, tooth aches etc. Chemicals present on these leaves will strengthen root of hair and cools scalp. The skins of its roots are used to cure cough and asthma. All kinds of diseases and illness can be cured so the bath is very sacred. It is called as a healing herb like Sun God as a healer. 
  • According to astrology, the Sun gains more power (excalation) in Mesha, loose power in Libra (debilation) and own house is Leo. If the Sun is in Libra means Karthika masam (cold weather) i.e. sun rays will be weak. Without sun bacteria & virus raises so karthika Masam rituals came to protect ourselves from the weather. If the Sun is in Aries (Mesha) starts in April (gains full power) that means hot weather.  On the day of Ratha Saptami Sun’s northerly movement (north-easterly direction.) sun starts gaining power (beginning of hot weather). If the Sun is in Leo (own house) then Mix of Cool breezes and hot summer (august).Again in September bacteria and virus will start to take vinaya chavithi festival comes up to perform special puja only with variety leaves (patri) and especially Arka(jilledu) leaves.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Magha Masam - Auspicious Month for Bath

Magha Masam:
Magha Masam is the month of Hindu calendar. As per the English calendar it is in between January-February.  It starts after Sankranti. The month is auspicious for marriages, house warming, upanayanam and Aksharabhyasam. The month is mainly significant for taking bath early in the morning before sunrise. The bath has to be taken in the river. The bath has to be started from amavasya day and continued till the whole month.

Cultural Beliefs:
  • As per Hinduism Goddess saraswathi Devi, Lord Surya and Shiva Linga were born.
  • As per Vishnu Sahasranama sthothram sloka Lord Vishnu is the god of yagna. Magha is a Sanskrit word, ma-not present, agha-sin. Lord Vishnu (high knowledge) is worshipped in this magha masam.
  • As per astrology ketu is the ruling planet for magha star.
  • As per our ancient Puranas like Vayu, Brahmanda they have mentioned the significance of taking bath in the rivers like Ganga, Yamuna etc. The days of this month begin with taking a bath and in the months of Magha, the spiritual merits are high.
The important festivals of magha masam are
  • Vasanta Panchami: This comes on the fifth day. Goddess Saraswathi is worshipped on this day to get from ignorance. Aksharabhyasam for children is highly auspicious on this day.
  • Ratha sapthami:This comes on the seventh day. Lord Surya is worshipped on this day and people will take a bath with seven Arka leaves to get rid of all sins.
  • Bhishma Ashtami:This comes after the day of Ratha Saptami. In the great Mahabharata, It is believed that sage Bhishma breathed his last.
  • Magha Pournami: This is celebrated on the full moon day marks the end of magha masam. Taking a bath in a sea is meritorious. Performing pooja to any god is auspicious. Charities given to Brahmins on this day have a great significance.
  • Maha Shivarathri: This is celebrated on 13th night or 14th day. Devotees offer prayers to Lord Shiva in temples. The most importance of this day is performing abhishekam to the Lord Shiva, fasting and doing Jagarana (all through night long).
Important Facts:
  • Taking bath in Triveni Sangamam(three rivers Ganga,Yamuna and Saraswathi) will wash all the sins committed and no rebirth.
  • Charity (Danam) done during the Maagha masam are sacred and meritorious. The Main charities are Black and white sesame seeds (Thila Danam), Food (Anna Danam), Salagrama Danam, Pumpkin (Gummadikaya Danam) and swayam pakam to Brahmins.
  • According ancient astrology in the month of Magha, Moon moves into zodiac sign of Cancer and Sun stays in Capricorn.Taking bath in those auspicious combination of planets relieves all problems of a person.At the time of Magha Pournami(full moon day) the effect is gradually increases to peak point.
Scientific Reasons:
  • Taking Bath is for refreshment and cleaning external body.
  • Magha masam indicates change in season taking bath in sacred places helps a body to adjust to the changing seasons.
  • Water is a cleanser which cleans the impurities of body and gives a healthy body.
  • Bathing in sacred waters increases the immune system and prevents the skin relates diseases.
  • Bathing with cold water can relieve from stress, tensions and increase the sugar level in blood.
  • Bathing with cold water after exercise prevents muscle pains.
  • Bathing tightens the blood vessels and all the exhaust blood and the waste products.
  • Water in rivers and sea will have many medicinal benefits.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bhogi- The Festival of Bonfire


Bhogi Festival was celebrated as the first day of Harvest festival called as Pongal in south India.This festival comes prior to Makara Sankranthi Festival in india. The Bhogi was derived from Sanskrit word Bhooz. Bhooz means happiness. This is marked as a holy day because goddess Godha Devi merged with Lord Sri Ranganatha Swamy at the holy place SriRangam. Holy bonfire were lit in the early morning around 4-5AM to overcome the winter harshness. 
Cultural Beliefs:
  • People will worship Lord Indra,Lord Surya(Sun) and Goddess Earth by preparing special dishes with newly harvested paddy on this day known as Pongal.Young ladies exhibit their talents by drawing colorful designs know as Rangoli on the floors. This designs popularly called as Mutyala Muggu or Sankranthi Muggu. Balls prepared with Cow dung and decorated with turmeric and flowers were placed on the designs.These are called as 'Gobbillu'.
  • Haridasu is a person who beg alms for rice by playing street songs with musical instrument in one hand and a pair of wooden blocks used as cymbals in other hand can be seen in this day.
  • Gangireddu or Basavanna, A person who begs alms for rice by singing folk songs with clarinet and bull dance.
  • And in the evening all families will showcase their dolls on the array of steps and organizes a party in their homes. This is called as Bommala Koluvu.

Interesting Facts:

Bhogi Pallu is special ritual where all fruits and coins were collected and showered on the heads of small children to protect them from negative forces.This ritual will bring happiness, good fortune and success. Mixture of Jujube or Indian date, gooseberries, small sugarcane pieces and rice were used in showering. People believe that Indian date is the favorite fruit for Lord Lakshmi Narayana. By showering these fruits on heads will acquire blessings of the god.

Scientific Reasons: 

  • Dry Cow dung cakes, Cow ghee, Banyan, Peepal and Neem tree wood were used in Bonfire. This holy smoke will purifies the environment by their medicinal properties. Nearly 10grams of Cow ghee will release 1 ton of oxygen into the air. By inhaling this air, the disease causing germs which are widely spread during the winter will be destroyed. All the people will get health benefits with this bonfire in cheap cost. This air will detox the body by cleansing 72,000 nerves. By this cultural procedure people will unite without any rational discrimination. Young ladies will sing songs by revolving around the fire. Scientifically this fire will raise our body temperature and kills disease causing germs in the body.
  • But nowadays people are using rubber tires and certain plastics in this fire causing various health problems. Burning waste scrap is not cultural act in this festival. Old beds which are made with the wood of Neem and other tree wood can be burnt.
  • There exist a reason behind cultural act 'Bhogi Pallu', Scientifically there is a part in the brain called as Brahma Randram(the core of the brain or Third eye or Pineal gland) exist on the top of the skull. When we shower these fruits on the head it becomes excited and children will become intelligent.And other meaning is, the fruits resembles nature, showering on head states that "respect the nature by keeping on head". Another meaning was, Our pride,selfishness will fall like fruits from head only soul will reach the god this is eternal, by this act our inner consciousness will be raised to overcome our pride and selfishness.
  • Cultural Activities such as drawing colorful designs(Rangoli),Exhibiting dolls(Bommala Koluvu) encourages a habit of socializing in their places for young girls.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Makara Sankranti- Festival of Sun

Makara Sankranti:
Sankranti is a Hindu festival which falls in the Pushya masam. Sankranti means 'sacred changes’. The festival occurs on when the sun moves from Sagittarius to Capricorn (one house of the Zodiac to another). Capricorn is a sign of peace and contentment.

Cultural Importance:
As per the puranas, on this day the Sun God Surya meets his son Shani (Saturn -Lord of Capricorn) as they do not share a very good relationship, so this is the day for a special father-son relationship. It is the son who has the responsibility to carry forward his father’s dream and the continuity of the family.

It is believed on this day Lord Vishnu ended the terror of the Asuras by finishing them off and burying their heads under the Mandara Parvata (Mountain). So this occasion also represents the end of negativeness and beginning of an era of righteous living.

From Makara Sankranti starts the Gods (devatas) day will start, while southward movement of the sun (dakshinayana) is said to be the ‘night’ of devatas, most of the auspicious things are done during this time.  Uttarayana is also called as Devayana, and the dakshinayana' is called Pitrayana.

As per Mahabharata, Bhishma told his purpose for leaving the sufferings on this day. He had a boon for death from his father so he kept lying on the bed of arrows till makara sankranti day.The person, who dies during the period of Uttarayana becomes free from rebirth.

As per puranas the month Dhanurmasam is early morning hours of Gods. So Hindus wake up early in this month and make variety designs with rice flour and colors before the entrance of their houses to welcome the gods in the morning.

How to celebrate sankranti?
In Andhra Pradesh, Sankranti is called 'Pedda Panduga' which is the big festival. The Festival is of three days, the first day Bhogi, the second day Sankranti, the third day Kanuma.

On this day goddess Godadevi is married Lord Vishnu their married life is called as Bhogi. On this day people wake up in the early morning before sunrise and collect all the waste material and fire them. This is called “Bhogi Mantalu” as this droves the poverty. Bhogi is celebrated to keep warm during winter. On this fire they will boil water and the whole family keeps oil to body and take bath. Hindus believes that if they follow this formality they don’t bother with poverty.

There is a special ritual for children.They pour Bhogi Pallu (gooseberries) on children’s head to get them good health and prosperity and to avoid “Evil Eye”(Nara drushti).

Sugarcane, beaten rice, sweets made of sesame seeds and jaggery is offered to the Bhogi fire the same are consumed. Also dry fruits and sugarcane are eaten.

People bathe in the holy water and worship the god Sun. On this Ladies decorate the houses with toranam, flowers and put Rangoli (Muggulu) with rice flour and colors at the entrance of the house. In the middle of Rangoli they Pour Navadhanyalu and put gobbillu (balls of cow dung decorated with turmeric, kumkum and flowers) pray to them and sing, dance around them.

Haridasu who looks like Naradamuni puts one big bowl like pumpkin shape, on his head. Haridasu takes the begging from the people and says ‘Krishna arpanam’, that means everything in the world belongs to Lord.

A person (Gangireddudasu) comes with Gangireddu (Ox decorated with beautiful clothes and ringing bells) which is a symbol of Lord Shiva’s Vehicle Nandi. He begs and bless each family.Jangamayyalu are symbols of Lord Shiva. They walk one home to another and beg food grains. They bless and give vibudhi powder to all.

On this day the Puja is performed with different kind of sweets and are offered to god as naivedyam. Arisalu (made of rice and jaggery) is the traditional sweet item that is made for this sankranti festival. Sesame seeds, beaten rice, yogurt, jiggery,dal  and atleast curry prepared of five vegetables need to be consumed. Also Sesame has to be donated.

In the evening people enjoy with kites fly to give a warm welcome for the sun in the Northern hemisphere. Goddess Saraswati is worshipped from makara sankrathi as it marks the beginning of Vasant Navaratri. In some parts of India people offer thousands of their colorful oblations to the Sun in the form of beautiful kites.Ladies and children will celebrate Bommala Koluvu by placing all types of toys in the house at one place.

Sankranti is a harvest festival. The farmers cultivate the land depends on his cattle and also birds. On these days farmers are very happy because this is season of the cultivate food grains coming home. So it’s the duty of farmer that he makes his friends also happy. So on the day of Kanuma farmers worships the cows and buffaloes and thanks for ploughing the fields.

On this day some people invite their friends and relative and arrange feasts. In some places mostly in village’s bullock cart races and cock fighting’s held. Garelu (Vada) prepared with urad dal are taken on this day.

Interesting Facts:
‘Makar’ = crocodile. Sankranti=‘change.’ The ‘Makara’ represents the reality world and ‘Sankranti’ is a change to get away seize of the crocodile or the reality world.

Scientific Reasons:
Makara Sankranti is basically a celebration of a cosmic event spanned with human life.Sun enters from one zodiac to another. The sun is for knowledge, spiritual light and wisdom. Makara Sakranti tells us we should turn away from the darkness we live, and let the light within us joyfully shine brighter. The Sun removes darkness and guides for the light of knowledge. People should learn to develop purity, wisdom and knowledge.

On the Makara Sankranti day the six month Uttarayana begins.The roughness of winter decreases so the days will be longer and warmer. Uttarayana is the daytime for the Gods so auspicious activities take place during this period. The festival is the beginning of the harvest season for the farmers of India.

Make sweets like Sweet Pongal,Sesame burfee,Ariselu and Sesame Laddu. To keep Calcium & Iron levels in body as prescribed by our ancestors. Eating Sesame shall provide our body heat, strength and muscularity and high on nutritional values. Sesame seeds contains 3 times more calcium than milk. Sesame contains more iron, copper, magnesium , phosphorus, zinc, protein, fiber and  vitamin like B1,E. Sesamolin from sesame has the power to reduces high blood pressure and helps liver against damage.

Jaggery is a best source of iron when compared to spinach. It is healthier when compared with sugar as it contains more vitamins and minerals (iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous). cough, migraine, cold, asthma, fatigue and indigestion can be cured from jaggery.

Gobbillu made of cow dung creates a worm free environment in the house. By bhogi Fire we are free from harmful insects.